Embrace disruptors like Uber, don’t smother them

Andrew Boff

August 18, 2018

Technology is constantly evolving. This is certainly the case in London, with private vehicle hire or ride-hailing services. It would be a backward step not to embrace this technology, which offers more choice and cheaper travel options for Londoners, but it must operate under the same rules as Black Cabs.

In order to achieve cheaper travel, there needs to be a level playing field between ride-hailing services and Black Cabs. Without this, Black Cabs struggle to compete with private vehicle hire, and consumers have less choice in terms of their transport options. When I am Mayor of London, I will ensure that ride-hailing services and Black Cabs are treated equally.

The benefits of apps like Uber are clear: they are often cheaper, they are easy to use, and they are efficient. The simple fact that Uber has soared with huge profits in London makes the most convincing case that it is what Londoners want. In fact, 3.5 million people are registered with the service, which approximately equates to half of the adult population of London. This should not be a battle between whether we love our Black Cabs more than Uber. What we want more than anything is choice.

Private vehicle hire offers a solution to Londoners who, for whatever reason, do not have a suitable public transport alternative.  But consumers must be provided with a choice in these services. Clear evidence that ride-hailing services save Londoners money can be seen by comparing the price difference between a Black Cab journey and an Uber journey from Victoria Station to City Hall.

In this example, the Black Cab fare would be approximately £23, whereas, if you were to use Uber, the journey would cost between £9-13. If Uber were to lose its full licence in London, it could cost Londoners an additional £89.5 million a year in Black Cab fares. It would also significantly inconvenience Londoners who do not live somewhere served by a significant number of Black Cabs. I cannot support something which would inconvenience Londoners and cost them a lot more money.

Moreover, a restriction on ride-hailing services in London would have a profound impact on all those employed as private vehicle hire drivers in London. Uber, the largest, (but not the only) ride-hailing service in London, employs 45,000 drivers alone. If Uber is not granted a licence to operate in London by Transport for London, not only would Sadiq Khan be working against the consumer, but he would also be responsible for the consequent job losses that would result in a collective loss of £864 million a year in earnings. Besides this monumental economic loss, it is also worth noting that 90 per cent of the 45,000 drivers working for Uber in London say they are satisfied with their employer.

In order to ensure that adequate and fair regulations on all providers in the ride-hailing industry are enforced, I will split the licensing function off from TfL into its own organisation, answerable to me, with a remit for never compromising on public safety, and I will invite the London Assembly to scrutinise its operation and give a voice to interested parties.

I would expect the new organisation to improve vehicle guidelines and driver checks, including more effective complaints procedures in order to address poor service and performance at the same level as Black Cabs. These guidelines would also allow Black Cabs to do more in order to compete with the ride-hailing industry in London. To save the Black Cab, we must first embrace the ride-hailing industry.

Embracing the private vehicle hire industry with open arms is instrumental in allowing London to soar as a business hub, and to improve the lives of Londoners who require that form of transport. Offering consumers more choice in their transport options by allowing companies such as Uber and myTaxi to continue operating in London saves our residents and commuters money and time. Ride-hailing services offer clear benefits in increasing the quality of life of those living and working in London. What’s not to like?


  • Andrew Boff

    Andrew Boff is a member of the London Assembly and rapporteur for the "the role and responsibilities of local government in protecting LGBTI+ persons" for the Congress of the Council of Europe.

Written by Andrew Boff

Andrew Boff is a member of the London Assembly and rapporteur for the "the role and responsibilities of local government in protecting LGBTI+ persons" for the Congress of the Council of Europe.


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